Combat sports community finds tough foe in virus - Albuquerque Journal

Combat sports community finds tough foe in virus

Angelo Leo, right, shown in past action fighting Tramaine Williams, has tested positive for COVID-19, and so his WBO title fight scheduled for Dec. 19 has been postponed. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

The coronavirus has invaded Albuquerque’s combat-sports community in recent days.

As a consequence, a world champion boxer has had a fight postponed. An MMA fighter may experience the same fate.

And a 66-year-old friend of many in that community is fighting for his life.

Boxer Angelo Leo, an Albuquerque native, has tested positive for the virus. Leo said he’s asymptomatic, but his scheduled Dec. 19 WBO super bantamweight title defense against Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton has been postponed.

In a phone interview, Leo said his fight against Fulton has been rescheduled for Jan. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, the same location as before.

MMA flyweight Jordan Espinosa, a West Mesa graduate, posted Thursday on Facebook that he has tested positive. Espinosa has had symptoms – a fever above 100 degrees, chills, a headache, loss of his sense of smell – but wrote that he’s progressively feeling better.

Whether Espinosa will be cleared to fight Tim Elliott on Jan. 16, as scheduled, remains to be seen. The Jan. 16 card is scheduled to be staged at the UFC’s “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Dennis Chavez, a ring announcer and a popular figure in Albuquerque boxing circles, is hospitalized with COVID. Friends and relatives have posted on Facebook that Chavez is on a ventilator and in a coma.

Unfailingly upbeat, Chavez has been a welcome presence in the Albuquerque boxing community. Many in that community have expressed concern and well-wishes.

On Nov. 25, Chavez posted that he was hospitalized and was “dying. Thank you all for sharing the road.”

On Saturday, his daughter, Nicole Chavez, posted on her father’s Facebook page that his condition had improved slightly.

“My father Dennis Chavez is still fighting,” she wrote. “In the last 48 hours he’s improved a bit, he’s now in the orange zone instead of red. Please keep praying … thank you all.”

Leo (20-0, nine knockouts) won the then-vacant WBO title with a victory by unanimous decision over Tramaine Williams on Aug. 1 at Mohegan Sun. Fulton (18-0, eight KOs) originally was to be Leo’s opponent that night, but Williams stepped in after Fulton tested positive for the coronavirus.

Leo-Fulton was to have been a co-main event on the Dec. 19 card at Mohegan Sun, headlined by a WBC bantamweight title fight between Nonito Donaire and Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Leo lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and trains there at the Mayweather gym. He’s a Mayweather Promotions contract fighter.

He’d been tested regularly, he said, and all had been well until Tuesday when he tested positive.

“I don’t really feel any symptoms or anything like that,” Leo said. “I feel good, I feel fine.”

Nonetheless, he said, he’ll need to quarantine from seven to 10 days.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said, “because I wanted to fight before the holidays and all that. I’ve been training super hard, and I’m ready to go.”

But, he said, “It’s a minor setback. The fight’s still going on … it’s a month pushed back, which isn’t too bad.”

Leo said his father, Miguel, who also is his head trainer, tested positive for the virus as well.

“My dad had some symptoms,” Leo said. “He had some body aches … a sore throat. But he’s doing a lot better.”

Espinosa (15-8), according to his Facebook posts, first sought medical attention Monday. Though test results did not arrive until Thursday, he posted that he’d been in contact with several people who’d been positive for the virus and fully expected the test result to be positive.

On Thursday, it was.

A message left for Espinosa on social media was not returned.


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